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In early 2010, I had the epiphany: I needed to bite the bullet. I needed some heavy-duty gun training. I did some asking around. I was overwhelmingly directed to Massad Ayoob and his entry-level MAG 40 course. The four-day class focused on the legal aspects of shooting in self-defense, as well as core handgun skills. By week’s end, my brain was so full I had couldn’t understand a single example of “common sense gun control” that didn’t involve safety, accuracy, legality and self-defense. In short, I was hooked. After a few months practicing what Mas preached I was ready for more . . .

When I learned that Gator Farm Tactical was hosting the follow-on course in my area in March, I was chomping at the bit. MAG 80 spans five full days. It covers advanced handgun skills, introduction to long guns for defense, handgun retention, and a wide range of informational lectures on strategy and tactics.

Unfortunately (for me), Mas busy testifying on behalf of a police officer in a civil suit. Marty Hayes of Firearms Academy of Seattle taught the first half of the course. I was looking forward to training with another member of America’s Armed Intelligentsia.

As one might imagine, a class like this requires a PILE of equipment and supplies:

500 handgun rounds: 450 rounds 38 Special and 50 rounds of .357. I shot my DAO Model 19 for the entire class and brought my 442 snubby as back-up. (Openly, I dreaded this possibility, while secretly relishing the humiliation and punishment it would deal me.)

100 long gun rounds: Shotgun requires 90 (yes, 90!) slugs and ten rounds 00 Buckshot. I wielded an FN-TPS that I own ‘Vicariously’.

Mags and Carriers: I used five Safariland Comp III Speed Loaders and loaded from two custom kydex belt carriers. You need a minimum of 3 mags, but it’s always a good idea to bring extra in case one takes a crap. I also brought speed strips and HKS loaders in the event that I needed to break out the 442

Dummy Gun: You need one dummy gun for the Gun Retention training. Metal or hard plastic is best. Soft rubber flexes too much and you can’t generate enough finger-twisting leverage to train effectively.

Holsters: Custom Kydex IWB from RRCS for my Model 19. Galco Matrix Paddle for the Snubby, and a Galco Fletch, Thumb-Break, Pancake to use with my SIG226 Dummy gun.

Other Essentials:

  • Two sets of glasses with side protection. Muffs and Plugs.
  • A brimmed hat to keep hot brass from getting behind your glasses.
  • A good sturdy belt like the Galco Instructor Belt.
  • Maxpedition’s “Rolly Polly” Dump Pouch for Shotgun shells and loose handgun rounds. This would prove to be invaluable.
  • Notepad and Pens. Even though this class is mostly hands on, I still ended up with a heap of notes.
  • Knee pads and a ground cover or mat for prone shooting and the wounded/ down positions.
  • Cleaning Supplies- Even Glocks and Revolvers need some TLC to stay in peak form during days of shooting and crawling around in the dirt and dust.

With all that, plus clothes, and a big ice chest for lunches and refreshments, I loaded up my borrowed, gas-sipping Civic and drove the three hours south from my home in Phoenix to Sierra Vista, AZ. I had no idea how much I’d learn in those five days. And how much I didn’t know. How could I? [Part 2 to follow.]

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  1. I’m really looking forward to part two. Having suddenly found myself single again, I’m looking for adventure and whatever comes my way (sorry, Steppenwolf). Some demanding gun training would be just the ticket.

  2. I’ll do it for next to nothing for those near Charleston,SC. Long arms,short arms, knives, stick and hand and chemical. Any distraction from these headaches is a God send…

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